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Red light cameras still going away, but speed radars may stay in Phoenix

(KTAR News Photo)

PHOENIX — One last push from the Phoenix Police Department and city staff failed to keep red light cameras beyond their sunset on New Year’s Eve.

The City Council’s subcommittee on Public Safety and Justice stopped a recommendation from staff in the city manager’s office from extending the contract for the cameras to April 30, 2020.

But that same contract includes speed radar vans in school zones.

The cameras don’t cover all directions in an intersection.

“But in the direction that the camera does cover, we realized a 57% reduction in red light-running crashes in that direction of travel over a six-year period,” said Mike Kurtenbach, executive assistant police chief.

Councilwoman Thelda Williams again on Wednesday argued for keeping the cameras that generate traffic citations. She was in the minority of a 5-4 vote in November to end the contract.

Vice Mayor Betty Guardado, and Councilmen Michael Nowakowski and Carlos Garcia — who round out the subcommittee with Williams — upheld their opposition to the camera without knowing the logic for where they’re placed.

“Help us understand why we’re spending these tax dollars and trying to save lives,” Nowakowski told staff. “Are they really saving lives?

“We just asked our staff about the ten most dangerous intersections, and not one red (light) camera is there.”

Garcia insisted he does not oppose public safety, but rather police citations and resulting traffic school classes for which his constituents must pay.

“My issues are particularly with the entire industry that’s been created that are taking advantage of people that are of low income,” he said.

Now, city staff and police have until Wednesday to produce data warranting a new or modified contract for speed radar vans in school zones.

Vice Mayor Betty Guardado wants to keep those.

“I have two young children,” she said. “I think we also need to look a little bit more to pedestrian safety.”

But the speed radar vans could go away with the red light cameras on Dec. 31, if the city cannot craft a new contract with their operator to separate them.

Data from Phoenix police and city staff show crashes, injuries and deaths dropped more than 30% between 2014 and 2018 at the 12 intersections that have red light cameras. They also generate $1.3 million from citations each year.

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